£81m dividends paid to AWE consortium

Accounts posted by AWE Management Limited (AWEML) in September this year show dividend payouts totalling £81.7m in 2018.

AWEML manage the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) where the UK’s nuclear warheads are designed and built. The dividends were paid in four instalments to the consortium of companies who own AWEML: Lockheed Martin, Jacobs Engineering and Serco. AWEML’s activities are funded by the taxpayer through a contract managed by the Ministry of Defence.

During 2018 AWE Aldermaston entered its 6th consecutive year of enhanced regulatory attention from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and sister site AWE Burghfield entered its 3rd consecutive year. The regulator also announced that Burghfield’s Periodic Review of Safety was not sufficient for them to authorise a further ten years of operations at the Assembly Technology Centre where nuclear warheads are assembled, and said work there would have to cease if immediate safety changes were not implemented. At the time the replacement facility, Project Mensa, was found by the National Audit Office (NAO) to be 146% over budget and six years late.

In November 2018 AWE was fined £1m for a breach of health and safety legislation, in relation to an incident where an employee suffered electrical burns. The fine was set at the highest possible level for that category of incident. In late 2016 and early 2017 AWE Management was involved in industrial action after the consortium announced pension cuts due to their pension scheme shortfall of £461.6m - Nuclear Information Service research showed profits almost double the deficit over the life of the contract.

As well as the £81.7m dividend payment, the accounts show that the highest paid director received £977,000 in 2018, slightly lower than £1.3m paid in 2017.